Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye
By Sarah Dessen
Publication date: May 10, 2011

My review:

Maclean Sweet moves around a lot because of her dad's job. This means that she doesn't form any close relationships with anyone but that doesn't bother her. Each new town is a chance to reinvent herself. She can decide if she wants to be a popular athlete, a drama queen, a student council president, or fade into the woodwork. She usually picks a new name to go with her persona. She has been Lizbet and Beth but she hasn't been Maclean since her parents got divorced. In their latest town, she finds herself without a persona and the opportunity to discover who she really is-if she doesn't run away from it first.

At first I did not think I would be able to relate to a character like Maclean. I cannot imagine constantly reinventing myself. I thought I might find her annoying or aloof. Instead, from the beginning I felt sorry for her and understood why she chose to live her life that way. It was a self protecting mechanism. Maclean was badly hurt by her mother's unfaithfulness and her parents' subsequent divorce. It became easier for her to leave everything behind-even her own name-when she moved with her dad. They developed a system and Maclean could even read the signs of how long they'd be staying in a particular place and if it was worth it to make any long term plans. Constant moving and creating new personas have left Maclean without any idea of who she is anymore. She also doesn't have that "2 a.m. friend", the kind of friend she can depend on to be there for her. All of this changes when Maclean and her dad arrive in Lakeview. 

Maclean still hasn't decided which persona and name to adopt when she meets next door neighbor Dave Wade. With the help of Dave and some new friends from school Maclean begins to learn what friendship and positive relationships can look like. My favorite of Maclean's new friends is Deb. Maclean sees that Deb is an outsider at her school even though she tries to be a friend to everyone so Maclean takes a chance and invites Deb to join her at lunch. Maclean may have rescued Deb in that way but it is Deb who in the end teaches Maclean about friendship. Deb is the kind of person who is true to herself regardless of how others see her and this is something Maclean needs to learn in her own life. Maclean's friendship with Dave develops slowly and only gradually becomes something more. I thought this was very well done and in keeping with Maclean's life and personality. Dave is a nice guy with a few issues of his own as a genius with overly strict parents. 

While the parents in this book initially seem to be portrayed as negative (Maclean's mom had an affair, her dad doesn't deal with emotions, Dave's parents are too strict and not trusting), it quickly becomes clear that they are caring people with flaws. Maclean's mom keeps trying to reach out to her daughter even when Maclean is cruel and shuts her out. She does use guilt trips sometimes but it is obvious that she loves Maclean and wants to mend their relationship. Over the course of the novel, Maclean starts to process some of the anger and resentment she feels towards her mom. It is nice to see her start to communicate with her mom and begin to forgive her as well as realizing her own mistakes in their relationship.

On the surface What Happened to Goodbye appears to be just another novel about a broken family and angry teen but it is more than that. The theme of home is echoed throughout the novel from the constant moving of Maclean and her dad to Maclean's mom's beach house, and even the model of the community Maclean helps to build. I liked the idea that you can hold on to the good things from the past and create something new. Overall in spite of my initial hesitancy about this novel, I was really pleased with it and I consider it one of Sarah Dessen's best works. 

Readalikes: The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises, Along For the Ride by Sarah Dessen, Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott, Moonglass by Jessi Kirby


  1. One of Dessen's best books? Wow. I am definitely going to have to reconsider this one. Like you, I wasn't sure at first, but since you enjoyed it, I will have to pick up a copy. Thanks for the great review, Christina!

  2. After reading your review, I have a deeper appreciation of this book. My favorite Dessens are This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever which I feel have stronger romantic elements than this one but I really like thinking about the themes about home; I'll have to ponder that some more.

    I also love Deb-one of my favorite secondary Dessen characters!

  3. thanks for the awesome review, i can't believe i've never read anything by dessen

  4. I am sooooo looking forward to reading this! I love Sarah Dessen. :) I saw it at the library, so I'm definitely going to have to get it soon. :) Great review!

  5. Thanks for the review and thank you so much for visiting my blog. It is sad to visit a hometown after so many years but things are developing apace. At least the roads are good now to get there.

  6. I love how well Dessen writes about different sorts of relationships...this book was really good, and I agree that it is some of her better work!

    Wonderful review! You're making me want to reread it again ;)

  7. I love Sarah Dessen's books and I just bought this one. Thanks for the review!


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